Sweet Potato – Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are fueling super food! With just enough fiber to slow the digestion and keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable, a sweet potato is almost a perfect “fitness food”! Beta-carotene is abundant in sweet potatoes and has been associated with a decrease in inflammation. Sweet potatoes are also excellent sources of vitamin C, B6, manganese, and potassium. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, a large sweet potato contains 162 calories and 5.9 grams of fiber.
Raw Honey – Raw honey is high in carbohydrates and many minerals including iron, copper, sodium, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of the B vitamins, crucial nutrients in the production of energy. Many companies claim that their brands of honey are raw, but care should be taken to inspect the product to be sure of it. True raw honey is not watery or easily poured. It is quite viscous, and comes in a variety of shades and flavors depending on the types of flowers the bees which made it have pollinated. One tablespoon of honey will provide about 15 grams of carbohydrate.
Peanut Butter – This household favorite is an excellent source of energy for good reasons. Peanut butter is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, a heart-healthy fat associated with lowered LDL (bad) and higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Eating some fat before workouts will lower blood sugar spikes from meals and give your body a back-up fuel source aside from carbohydrates. Peanut butter is a rich source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, iron, and B vitamins. It is also a good source of protein and a great source of calories, providing around 190 calories and 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons.
Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a great base in which to add variety to your menu by topping with foods such as strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and peanut butter. It is also a great source of complex carbohydrates and B vitamins to deliver a steady stream of energy during your workout. 1 cup of oatmeal cooked in water contains about 170 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.
Green Tea – Green tea is a great way to boost energy levels with caffeine before a workout, while also providing potent antioxidants associated with decreased inflammation and longer lifespan. In a 2008 study from the University of Birmingham, cyclists who consumed green tea improved their fat burning rate by 17% when compared to the placebo.
Quinoa – This ancient grain has been cultivated in South American regions for 3,000 – 4,000 years, providing a steady source of complete protein for indigenous populations. It is also a good source of minerals such as magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 220 calories and 40 grams of complex carbohydrates to meet your energy demands.
Brown Rice – Brown rice is different from white rice in that it contains the hull and the bran; parts of the grain which are dense in nutrients including protein, thiamin, and magnesium. Brown rice is also a good source of niacin, a B vitamin essential for the proper metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Niacin can also decrease atherogenic LDL cholesterol levels. One cup of cooked brown rice provides 215 calories, 3.5 grams of fiber and 3 milligrams of niacin.
Avocado – This savory fruit is packed with plant sterols and monounsaturated fatty acids, making it great for countering inflammation brought on by exercise. The fat and fiber content also provides a dense source of slow-digesting calories to add satiety to meals to help you go the extra mile. Avocados are great sources of vitamins A, B5, B6, C, E, and K. Be careful not to overindulge, as the fat content of avocados can contribute to an excessive intake of calories.
Lentils – Lentils are an inexpensive, nutritious legume which has been eaten throughout middle-eastern cultures for thousands of years. They are great sources of slow digesting protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Lentils are also high in folate, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. If you are eating them as a main protein source, be sure to consume rice or another complimentary protein due to lentil’s low methionine (an amino acid) content. One cup of cooked lentils provides 230 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 16 grams of fiber.